Tamarack Camp
Courtesy of Tamarack Camp's Facebook

Tamarack will be splitting up camp in pods for the first two weeks of session.

Tamarack Camps canceled all summer 2020 programming due to COVID-19. Now, following some leadership changes, Michigan’s flagship Jewish summer camp is preparing for an in-person 2021 – pandemic or not.

Lee Trepeck, the former Director of Camp Maas, has taken over the role of camp CEO after the retirement of Steve Engel. Carly Weinstock, the former Associate Director of Camp Maas, is now in Trepeck’s former position.

Soon after the 2020 season was canceled, Tamarack leadership consulted with medical experts to find a way to safely return to camp in 2021.

“We’re creating a bubble at camp,” Weinstock told the JN.

As usual, Tamarack will have two summer sessions lasting 24 days each. For the first two weeks of each session, the campers will be quarantined by age group in “pods”.

They will remain in their pods for all programming during this time period, including swimming (the camp’s usual “general swim” won’t take place this year).

“Once those two weeks are up, and we’re COVID-free, we can then come together as a big camp and do more of the all-camp programs,” Weinstock said.

For the final 10 days of both sessions, having completed the quarantine period, campers will be able to intermingle freely throughout camp.

Tamarack is also planning to have a reduced capacity for both campers and staff, and will ask all campers and staff to enter a quarantine period and take a COVID test prior to arrival.

“It’s still going to feel like camp, and we’ll still be doing all the fun, exciting programs camp has, but it’s going to be smaller groups,” Weinstock said. “And that’s how it’s going to be for the first two weeks of each session.”

Tamarack Mini-Sessions, the 10-day sessions specifically catered to campers entering 2nd-6th grades, will still take place but have been moved to the beginning of each session,  rather than the end, to avoid campers having to enter camp in the middle of the quarantine period.

According to Trepeck, Tamarack’s goal is that, even with any change in structure, the joy of camp will still reverberate. Trepeck also says their travel trips will not be functioning next summer.

“As of now, we are unable to offer applications for Agree Outpost Camp and our travel trips – Western, Alaska, and Israel,” Trepeck said. “Today, the borders to Canada and Israel are closed, and, additionally, travel trip experiences represent challenges in different areas and varied regulations. We’ve had meetings with families and campers – and lots of suggestions were raised, appreciated, and valued.

“Of course, we monitor the situation regularly; if there are healthy and safe ways to establish an alternative experience, those options are being evaluated and pursued.”

Another change from years past: Staff will stay on campgrounds even during their days off. In prior years, staff could leave during these allotted days.

The plans for summer 2021 are as fluid as the pandemic is, according to Weinstock, and plans can change.

“If things change, and things may get better, then we can add more campers, or we don’t have to be in the pods for as long, or we don’t have to quarantine prior to camp,” Weinstock said. “We’re going to continue to meet with our medical committee, who are all working on the frontlines and dealing with COVID on a daily basis. If things change, we’ll make the appropriate changes too.”

Though Tamarack received some criticism for canceling camp in 2020, Trepeck maintains it was the right call to make.

“For us, through a variety of factors, it didn’t feel appropriate to proceed,” Trepeck said. “It was difficult to miss camp in 2020 – to begin a summer without the bus ride ‘home’ felt off-course.”

Tamarack opened 2021 registration on Nov. 5. “We’re planning with COVID in mind,” Weinstock said, adding that the camp could also explore “mixing and masking,” to allow campers from different pods (such as siblings) to interact with each other in a masked, socially distanced way.

“I know this year has been so hard for everyone. Camp is such a special place to so many people, it’s my happy place, I grew up at camp, so I know how important it is to get campers and staff to camp this summer,” Weinstock said. “We are looking at every safety precaution to make sure we can have it happen.”

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